This research examined the role of working memory (WM) capacity and long-term working memory (LT-WM) in flight situation awareness (SA). We developed spatial and verbal measures of WM capacity and LT-WM skill and then determined the ability of these measures to predict pilot performance on SA tasks. Although both spatial measures of WM capacity and LT-WM skills were important predictors of SA performance, their importance varied as a function of pilot expertise. Spatial WM capacity was most predictive of SA performance for novices, whereas spatial LT-WM skill based on configurations of control flight elements (attitude and power) was most predictive for experts. Furthermore, evidence for an interactive role of WM and LT-WM mechanisms was indicated. Actual or potential applications of this research include cognitive analysis of pilot expertise and aviation training.
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